Reimagining the Customer Experience

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 6 min read

A New Report Explains How Leading Marketers Are Using Design Thinking to Reimagine the Customer Experience

Digitally enabled and connected customers are looking for choice, transparency, simplicity, and personalized experiences when it comes to the products and services they buy.  To this customer, products and pricing matter less.  Experiences matter more.  As a consequence, 89% of marketers are prioritizing the customer experience as the focal point of the branding, design, delivery and differentiation of their products and services by next year, according to Gartner.

The good news is that advances in technology and marketing science have given marketers an expanded pallet of tools to help them differentiate and enhance the customer experience. As Geraldine Calpin, the CMO of Hilton, puts it, “Technology gives us an amazing toolkit to redefine the guest experience in game-changing ways. The trick is to use these technology tools to find new and better ways we can deliver white glove treatment, like providing advanced check-in, room selection, and keys to the room right on their mobile phones.

Advances in technology and marketing science have given marketers an expanded pallet of tools to help them differentiate and enhance the customer experience.

Businesses like Hilton that directly engage customers in face-to-face environments – retail, travel, hospitality and banking – are making significant investments in customer data, IoT infrastructure, and mobile, social and digital technologies in hopes of differentiating their brands. Most are working hard to unify data sources and create a single view of the customer using CRM, Customer Engagement Management Systems, and Data Warehouses so they can deliver offers, reward points, content and services that are targeted, relevant and timely. And 72% of travel and hospitality businesses are now providing customers mobile applications to enhance service delivery.

According to Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Index, most marketers are focusing their technology investment on customer insights and eliminating “friction” from their journey.  For example, Kroger has reduced time customers spend in lines using customer monitoring and analytic tools to cut the average in-store wait time from more than four minutes to less than 30 seconds.

But technology alone may not be enough.  In today’s competitive environment, CMOs need to delight customers, not just satisfy them.  Delighting customers involves more than getting their name right, knowing their interests, and communicating consistently across a variety of devices.  It requires design thinking

So if you want to differentiate your brands with customer experience need to define and develop customer experiences be fun, relaxing, or inspiring. This will take a blend of art and science. And a lot of experimenting with the marketing mix.

Progressive marketers like the Barneys, Hershey's, and STORY are focused on enhancing customer’s enjoyment and pleasure as a core part of their customer experience strategies, in addition to a more utilitarian focus on executing a friction and error free visit. For example:

  • The retailer Barneys was able to create a 70% increase in-store sales and 4 Billion in earned media impressions worldwide by creatively blending a mix of digital, social, mobile and experiential elements into an in-store promotion featuring Lady Gaga called the 12 Days of Gaga.  The campaign included an exclusive curated set of merchandise aligned to the theme available online and in a fully converted section of Barney's flagship store dedicated to the event over the holiday season. According to Peter Sena, Founder of Digital Surgeons and designer of the experience, the art of the experience design was blurring the lines between the in-store experience and the digital experience, facilitated by online badges on mobile phones that drove thousands of customers to the store.  “Consumers don't think in channels, so as marketers and designers we can't either,” said Sena. “Great experience design blurs the lines between channels and taps into game mechanics and sensory experiences to create interest, engagement, and commerce for niche and broad viewers alike.”
  • Rachel Shechtman has built a highly successful retail concept named STORY that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like an art gallery, and sells things like a store. She treats her store as “the ultimate touch point” that delivers an all-consuming experience that is as much about the narrative and community as it is about the end product being sold. Every four to eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself – from the design to scents to the merchandise – with the goal of bringing to light a new theme, trend or issue.
  • Hershey’s cleverly uses facial recognition technology to get customers to smile in exchange for a free chocolate sample at the point of sale. This innovative consumer experience builds a strong brand connection by delivering an in-store happiness moment – all centered around a smile – at the point of purchase.

According to Megan Burns of Forrester Research, relatively few marketers are paying as much attention to emotional experiences as they do to the functional experience of streamlining transactions, targeting offers, and customizing communications.

So our new research report, entitled “Reimagining the Customer Experience” shows how the best marketers are tapping into the full range of sensory experiences in combination with digital engagement, enhanced recognition, and proactive service to differentiate their brands. It profiles how marketing leaders are using the principles of design thinking to incorporate physiological, physical, or environmental tools into their experience strategies in addition to leveraging digital, mobile, and social touch points to better engage customers.

The definitive playbook of what works best has yet to be written.  But innovators like Disney, Hilton, Virgin Airlines, Best Western, MGM Grand, STORY, and Lowes are using human-centered design principles to find brand new ways to blend digital, mobile, augmented reality, wearable, scent and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to delight customers and build loyalty.

The Reimagining The Customer Experience Report delves into the six dimensions that leading marketers in the retail, travel, and hospitality industries are using to redefine the customer experience so they can differentiate their brands, enhance loyalty and drive top line growth.

Enhanced Recognition – Offering enhanced value and recognition to your most loyal customers beyond points and offers;
Sensory Experiences – Providing custom sensory experiences including smell and sound to influence their mood and behavior;
Personalized Choices – Providing customers the opportunity to more personalize solutions via a wider range of choices;
Intelligent Solutions – Leveraging technology to offer intelligent solutions such as smart rooms and products to adapt to customer needs and usage;
Proactive Services – Using analytics to that anticipate client needs or solve problems before they happen problems;
Digital Engagement – Active and consistent engagement across social, mobile and digital channels before, during and after their visit.

Individually, each of these dimensions is important to customers.  But when used in combination, these six dimensions have the potential to redefine what customer experience is in the digital age – creating 360-degree, multi-sensory, and multi-channel experiences. Get a free copy of the Reimagining the Customer Experience report and learn then ten important best practices marketing leaders can use to transform the customer experience in their organization.